At least two business owners have sent letters to the city requesting their businesses be removed from a petition against the temporary homeless shelter at the former Aldi’s location at 1534 S. Gilbert St.
The petition was circulated to 29 businesses in that area and garnered 37 signatures, all dated Dec. 16, the same day the Iowa City Council voted to allow Iowa City Manager Tom Markus to contribute up to $20,000 to the project.
The funding will allow the temporary shelter to operate from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily in January and February and provide 20 to 25 beds to homeless residents who are unable to stay at Shelter House because of intoxication or unwillingness.
The petition is fairly brief and explains that the “undersigned business owners and/or property owners” petition the city and staff to “refrain from funding, participating in and/or providing any financial or other support for the creation and/or operation of any homeless shelter at any location other than” Shelter House.
Concerns voiced over Iowa City shelter
Jeff McNutt, owner of Jeff McNutt Art LLC, 204 Stevens Dr., posted his letter to the city on his Facebook page Dec. 22. In the letter, McNutt writes he believed he “signed a petition to keep funding for the homeless exclusively at the Shelter House,” and that “while I take responsibility for signing this document, it was never my intention to deny funding or shelter for the homeless.”
McNutt went on to say in his letter that “since 2007, I have provided artwork at 100 percent donation to over a dozen local charities as well as my gallery space for fundraising events. … I will be donating artwork to (the Shelter House’s) charity fundraiser and hope my efforts continue to support the community with a purity of heart I hold when working with anyone.”
McNutt told the Press-Citizen on Wednesday that he had no further comments to make on the matter. According to City Clerk Marian Karr, McNutt presented the petition to the City Council and requested the city consider it at its Dec. 16 meeting.
Mark Paterno, co-owner of Marco’s Taxicab Co, also submitted a letter to the city that said the signature that appeared on the petition was from an employee who was not authorized to sign the petition.
Paterno said in his letter, which was posted to his Facebook profile page Dec. 21, that “there are two owners of Marco’s Taxi and therefore only two authorized people that could sign any petition on our behalf. Neither owner of Marco’s Taxi signed this petition or were aware that a petition was circulating.”
Paterno also said in his letter the cab company “adamantly disagrees with the petition in its entirety and would never have signed it had we been made aware of it in the first place. We would never consider signing any petition that cuts any support to homeless shelters regardless of location.”
Paterno could not be reached Wednesday.
Paul Young, owner of Sweet Livin’ Antiques, Art and Records, 1565 S Gilbert St., said he thinks business and property owners such as himself who signed the petition have been cast unfairly as callous and hardhearted.
“I wish the petition had a bit more variety of opinions, because there are so many different opinions, and there are people totally for and totally against it,” Young said. “It isn’t like you can put an asterisk next to your name and explain why you signed it.”
Young said he agrees with Shelter House using the former Aldi’s on a temporary basis, but said a more permanent location should be found elsewhere.
“We’ve got a lot of these services in our backyard, why not spread them around the city?” Young said. “I think this issue should open a greater discussion about the concentration of these kinds of services in this area.”
Shelter House Executive Director Crissy Canganelli said she understands concerns from business owners in that area and will use this experience as an opportunity to spread more information about the project.
“All I can really do now is emphasize this is a temporary project, and will accommodate 20 to 25 people a night,” Canganelli said. “These people face freezing to death or, at best, frostbite if the temperatures dip, and I don’t think anyone would want anybody to face that reality.”
Canganelli said she thinks some business and property owners signed the petition with limited knowledge of the shelter project or the petition’s intent.
“Many of them signed without taking the time to call and talk to us,” Canganelli said. “A number of folks who have come forward, when they realized they had misinformation, said they wished they had talked to us sooner.”
Canganelli said she is hopeful the shelter will open Jan. 5.
Reach Andy Davis at 319-887-5404 or at email@example.com.
County, groups contribute to temporary shelter
•The Johnson County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday voted to approve a $16,000 Innovative Flexible Funding Grant to the Shelter House’s temporary homeless shelter project at the former Aldi’s store on South Gilbert Street. Total costs for the project are estimated to be $67,000.
•Shelter House Executive Director Crissy Canganelli said the organization has also received $5,000 contributions from the Community Foundation of Johnson County and United Way, about 30 cots from the Boy Scouts, 50 blankets from Walmart and several donations from community members.
•Canganelli said Coralville and North Liberty are planning to consider making contributions in January.
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